Category Archives: Gem Hunting

Gem Hunting – The Details

Rose Quartz Healing Gemstone
Rose Quartz Healing Gemstone. Photo: Maxpixel

We have previously talked about gem hunting, but we have not discussed the steps as to how to approach the prospecting for gemstones, so let’s get right into how you start your gem-hunting adventure:

Research Your Locations

Different types of gemstones are found in a variety of regions, so it’s important to identify areas where the stones you’re interested in are found.

Start with the Ineternal Gem Society. They can provide you with some of the top locations around the country where you can dig for gemstones.

Make Sure You Have the Right Equipment for Your Gem Search

Depending upon the location you select, they should be able to provide you with the necessary tools for your hunt, most probably for a fee, but you could bring your own equipment as well. That would consist of a pair of gloves, a shovel, a bucket, a screen or sifter, and a magnifying glass. Additionally, when you are there, ask for a gemstone identification guide.

Where to Look for Gems?

Bunch of gemstones
Image by Emilian Robert Vicol from Pixabay

Ever gone bird watching?

If yes, then you know that you have to travel to a certain spot of a particular destination to view a specific species of bird. To find the right destination for bird watching, one has to find out the species’ habitat, migration patterns, food choices, etc.

Knowing these things will help you figure out the location where a particular species of bird is likely to be found. You cannot simply wander around the forest in the hope of finding the types you are looking for; it would be nothing more than wasting time.

Experts say that gem hunting is much like bird watching. You most likely will not find minerals dug in the soil outside your home; however, the practical approach is to first research the areas where the gems are naturally found and then use the right technique to access the deposits.

For example, since diamonds are formed as a result of extreme pressure, they are either found deep inside the earth, in areas where various geological processes have pushed the mantle rocks from the depths of the earth to the surface, or alongside the rivers that flow from such areas.

Similarly, if you are looking for malachite, you have to look for it near copper and limestone deposits.

The occurrence of gemstones may also vary across countries, depending upon their geological processes, volcanoes, storms, and earthquakes, as they cause shifts in the tectonic plates and bring the buried bedrock to the surface of the earth.

Methods for Gemstones Mining

From basic to advanced, there are various mining methods. They include:

  • Underground Mining

When hunting for your stones is done within the pipe and alluvial deposits, it is called underground mining. The methods used for underground mining are:

  • Block caving
  • Tunneling
  • Chambering
  • Open Cast Mining

Open-cast mining uses different techniques. Here removal of the upper layer of rocks is required in order to reach the bedrock, which is buried deep inside the earth that contains the gems. Any of the following methods are used to excavate gems from the deepest layers of the earth:

  • Terrace Mining
  • Pit Mining

Open-cast mining methods are widely used in various parts of the world including the United States, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and Myanmar. etc.

  • Sea Mining

Sea mining, marine or undersea mining, as they are alternatively called, is used in areas where marine deposits are present.

  • River Digging

As evident from the name, river digging is performed in and around rivers and lakes to excavate the gems that have been buried in the river soil and rocks naturally, by the water current or geological processes over time. It can further be classified into two types:

  • Wet Digging
  • Dry Digging

Gem Hunting Tools

Sorting and picking of valuable stones from the excavations debris of swat emerald mine in swat valley, Pakistan.
Photo: iStock

As with any other specialized task, you cannot expect to have a successful gem-hunting experience if you don’t have the right tools and equipment.

For example, there is no point in going fishing without a fishing tackle and/or bait. It is highly unlikely to catch a fish with your hands. Similarly, searching for gemstones without the proper gem-hunting tools is nothing more than wasting your time. Tools for gem hunting are easily available at affordable prices, which means that even occasional hunters can easily buy them without exceeding their budgets.

Hammer used for gem hunting
Image by arodsje from Pixabay

For gem hunting, you would need the following basic tools:

  • Shovel
  • Rock Hammer
  • Magnifying lens
  • Bucket and collection bags
  • You may need some specialized equipment to excavate some particular types of gems, such as a metal grid frame for screening, a pan for gold, etc
  • Permanent markers for labeling

For your safety and comfort:

  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes
  • Apply insect repellent and sunblock
  • Wear goggles
  • A GPS device or map to find your way
  • Water
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Walkie-Talkies for communication

There is More Than One Method for Gem Hunting

You should research the different methods employed when looking for your precious stones. Some of the most popular are: 

  • Hydraulic Mining, where jets of water are used to loose the rocks from the dirt, 
  • River Panning is where you essentially wash away the gravel to find the minerals, 
  • Open Pit Mining, where you physically remove rocks, possibly in a quarry to search for the gems.

But this just scratches the surface (pun intended). Do some research to find the best method you prefer.

Learn Gemstone Identification

Familiarize yourself with the characteristics and properties of the gemstones you’re hunting for. Look for distinguishing features like color, luster, hardness, and crystal structure. Using a mineral identification guide or app can help determine the gemstones you find.


Tanzanian Miner Finds Tanzanite Gem Worth Millions

Coat of Arms of Tanzania
(Photo: Wikimedia
Public Domain)

Looks like Saniniu Laizer, an independent miner in Tanzania has the luck of the Tanzanians, after finding, for a third time, a discovery of two violet-blue tanzanite gemstones, which are some of the world’s rarest gems.

These stones are said to be the largest ever found in the country and this discovery made 52-year-old Saniniu a self-made millionaire. He sold 33 pounds of stones to the Tanzania government for a whopping 7.74 billion Tanzanian shillings ($3.4 million U.S. dollars).

Laizer is not employed by any organization or company. Like others, he mines on his own by hand, but if this gemstone find was not enough, he went back to make another discovery, grabbing a 14-pound gemstone valued at $2 million.

Surface Mining
Surface Mining (CC)

Mining makes up more than 50% of Tanzania’s exports with gold the primary mineral. Saniniu’s mining is considered legal, although there are Illegal mining techniques as well as corruption in this country and it is a big problem for the government. 

In 2019, Tanzania set up trading centers to allow miners to sell their gems to the government. Many reportedly mine by hand, like Saniniu without any affiliation to any mining companies. This also encourages other small scale miners to work.

So What is Laizer Going to Do with His Fortune?

Farmers in Igunga,_Tanzania (Wikipedia)

“There will be a big party tomorrow” he said. “I want to build a shopping mall. Laizer also mentioned that he will slaughter one of his 2,000 cows for his party, according to the BBC.

Tanzania is a poor country located in East Africa and despite its mining production of gold, it still remains one of the most impoverished countries in the world. About 36 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and although they have a structured educational system, the attendance rate is poor.

There is a lack of trained teachers, a lack of student motivation from students to attend, most probably due to the lack of esteem due to the low poverty level; subsequently, there is a large drop out rate. Poor nutrition is also a big problem. No doubt this also adds to the overall impoverishment of the country.

Saniniu Laizern is a bright spot in these areas of low morale, so it’s not surprising to hear that he wants to build a school and healthcare facility in his community. “I want to build this school near my home. There are many poor people around here who can’t afford to take their children to school.”

Additionally, he said: “I am not educated but I like things [sic] run in a professional way.” And he said that he would like his children to manage his business. This should not be a major problem for Saniniu, since it has been reported that he has four wives and over 30 children.

5 Best Places to Go Gem Hunting in the US

Close-up of a large amethyst mineral rock
Photo from

Eager to find a variety of real gemstones that can take the total worth of your collection to the next level? 

Roll up your sleeves and hold on to your digging tools for you are in for a real adventure!

From sunstones and emerald to sapphire and even diamonds, there is a wide range of treasure hunting possibilities. Here, we have listed down some designated public dig sites that are considered the best spots for gem hunting in the US.

Emerald Hollow Mine, North Carolina

Emerald Hollow Mine is one of the most interesting geological locations in North America. While it is located in Hiddenite, North Carolina, it is anything but concealed from the public. In fact, this is the only emerald mine in the world that is open for public mining.

Here, you can not only hunt for gems but even turn them into a stunning piece of jewelry via the help of local artisans right there on site. 

At the sluiceway, every visitor is given their own bucket of ore that comes down the line straight from Hiddenite’s emerald mine. However, gorgeous green gems are not the only thing you will find here. 

The place is also rich in other natural stone formations including amethysts, aquamarine, topaz, and more. So, keep an eye out for them as well.

This gem hunting site also consists of a family campground along with a RV park with modern amenities.

All in all, Emerald Hollow Mine is a must-visit for every gem collector. However, if you wish to avoid crowds, consider visiting later during the day as this is often the destination of choice for local school field trips.

Jade Cove, California

If you are hunting for jade, the Big Sur mountain in California is the place to be. Although its rocky and rugged terrain is praised for its dramatic scenery, what makes it all the more attractive is the treasures hiding beneath it.

Jade in Jewelry
Beautiful Jade in Jewelry

Jade is one of the most precious gems in the world – and this place holds lots of it. Whether you dive in for a swim or take a stroll along the beach, you are sure to find some precious gems at Jade Cove located at the South corner of the Big Sur.

For the best results, try to visit this place during the winter season. This is because the rough undercurrent naturally brings many gemstones to the shore. Make sure to look between the boulders as well as in small piles of gravel along the coastline.

Keep in mind though that Jade Cove is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Therefore, compared to typical gemstones dig sites, this place has a relatively strict guideline for the do’s and don’ts of jade hunting. 

Research and read them carefully before you book a trip to the Cove.

Crater of Diamonds State Park, Arkansas

A supplement to the Nashville News of nearby Nashville, Arkansas, advertising diamonds mining in the early 1900s (public domain)

Fancy taking a trip where you return with free (yet 100% real) diamonds rather than just some nice photos and your average run-of-the-mill souvenirs?

Well, this is exactly what a trip to the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas has to offer! 

This aptly named place is basically a volcanic crater. Billions of years ago, it saw some serious volcanic activity which resulted in magnificent rock formations and crystallization of buried carbon. Today, it is a hotbed of diamonds hidden deep under the surface. But still, not so deep that an average person with no or little experience in mining won’t have a hard time finding some. 

The Park features a total of 37 acres of plowed field. Visitors can dig right in for a variety of rocks, minerals, and gemstones. 

Whatever you find is completely yours to keep. But you will have to really work for it because the park does not allow the use of battery-operated or motor-driven mining tools. 

Nonetheless, a shiny diamond glistening in the soil makes every drop of sweat completely worth it.

Morefield Mine, Virginia

Morefield Mine is located in Amelia County on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia.  Not so long ago, the place was populated by military suppliers looking for minor metals and strategic minerals such as tantalum and mica, respectively. 

After the end of World War II, the mine was bought by a private investor who turned it into a field for gem hunting. 

Morefield Mine is rich in amazonite, but it is known to contain a total of over 80 different types of mineral rocks and gemstones. 

The mine is around 2,000 feet long and is located more than 300 feet beneath the ground. The owners periodically open up new excavation sites by blasting the cave. So, visitors can rest assured that their trip will be quite fruitful.

Royal Peacock Opal Mine, Nevada

If you are more interested in collecting one-of-a-kind gemstones regardless of what their true value may be, a trip to the Royal Peacock Mine won’t disappoint.

Located in Virgin Valley in Nevada, this region is touted for its exceptionally large and unique black fire opals that are unlike any other found in the world. The place holds the record for one of the largest opals ever found. The ‘Gingko Log,’ as it came to be known, weighed around 130 pounds and measured almost 16 inches at its widest.

A black fire opal is generally not very expensive. But with extraordinary colorations featuring green, yellow, blue, orange, red, and even purple hues, it surely makes a fine addition to any gem collection. 

End Note

There are many places to go gem hunting in the US. But the ones mentioned above are the most popular among avid collectors due to the high turnover. They are the top gem hunting hotspots where you most probably won’t be returning empty-handed from.

How to Start Your Own Gem Collection

gems and minerals on display
Learning about gems and minerals is exciting and informative

Need a hobby? How about collecting gems and minerals? Mineral collecting is both exciting and informative. Exciting because of the intricate colors and shines the different varieties have and informative because one must learn their geology in order to really appreciate them.  It is a historical trip back in time to discover the hidden gems of the earth.

If you are a beginner who is looking forward to creating a collection of your own, you don’t necessarily have to start out with making huge discoveries of these beautiful gems. You can start right at the beach or your very own backyard if you have one!

Here is a guide on how to start your own mineral and gem collection as you explore the intriguing world of these minerals and rocks.

Start with General Research  

The internet is your best friend as it is full of information on literally anything and everything, but always make sure you are using reliable sources. Learn about the unique features and characteristics of each mineral so that when you finally come across one, you can easily identify which one it is.

Begin Close to Home 

Since you are a beginner, you don’t have to go to specific places or locations to look for these gemstones. Start close to home and explore your current locale. Learn the geology of your own area and be on a lookout for caches or interesting geological features that might catch your eye.

You are likely to come across different types of rocks that look unusual, have a mix of colors and will be a great addition to your collection.

Join a Mineral Collector’s Club

There are book clubs, movie clubs and meetups both in-person and online where people from different parts of the world come together to discuss their favorite hobbies? 

You can easily find such a group online which you can join and get in touch with people who share your interest and connect with them. That way, you get to learn the many things minerals have to offer, along with tried and tested methods to mineral and gem collection.

These clubs also often list exhibitions and events that you can attend and learn more about how to start your own collection.

Get Your Hands on the Right Tools 

Mineral collection obviously involves some kind of digging and excavating for which you need to get your hands on all the right tools that you will need for creating your collection.

As a beginner, you will just require a few basic tools such as a magnifying glass, safety glasses, gloves, bucket, a small shovel and a box to carry all the minerals and gems that you will find on each trip.

The above tools make an excellent beginner’s toolkit, and since you are just starting out, you don’t need to worry about getting advanced equipment anytime soon. You can keep adding more items to your basic kit once your collection begins to grow, and you become more skilled at different collecting techniques.

Identify Your Findings 

It is very important that you identify all your findings because that way, you will learn all about the features and characteristics of each mineral type that you find. There are two simple ways to go about this.

First, you can put your web searching skills to good use and take help from the online community to help identify your specimens. You can even search for mineral books that list the types of minerals and gems with a geological glossary.

Second, head to the nearest museum in your area and consult a mineralogist who will help you recognize your findings.

Label Your Collection 

To make this entire process even more fun and engaging, you can label your collection by numbering the specimens, giving them unique names, mentioning the locale details, historical significance, as well as noting down the features such as color, texture, etc.

This will not just add to your knowledge, but if one fine day you were to start a career in geology, keeping such records will come in really handy.

Invest In Nice, Quality Boxes to Keep Your Minerals Safe 

It is imperative to keep your gems and minerals extremely safe so you can look for nice, quality boxes, cases or even a display cabinet to store your collection. However, if you wish to be a little creative, you can search for DIY projects and create your own containers. 

The best thing to use for this is egg cartons. They are sturdy, durable and can be easily transformed into attractive containers to hold your specimens. You can paint them and even decorate them with accessories if you like.

When storing your collection, make sure that each mineral or gem is at a safe distance from each other. This is done to prevent them from banging against each other. Some of them are likely to be very fragile, so it is best to have dividers between each mineral.

Beautify Your Collection 

For most collectors, the ultimate goal is to collect enough, which can be displayed later at a geology fair or exhibition, website or even sell them.

If you wish to do the same, you must beautify your collection. One way to do that is to trim all the specimens properly to remove sharp edges and balance their look and feel.

There are numerous trimming tools for fine mineral specimens that will help you make your collection stand out by enhancing their features and appearance. 

Are You Ready to Have Your Own Gem Collection?

Building a gem or mineral collection isn’t really difficult; you just need to be a little inquisitive, adventurous and bring out the explorer from within you.

It is truly a very exciting hobby, and once you have you have a full-fledged collection, you can display your beautiful specimens at different mineral shows and events!

Gem Hunting – A Beginners Guide

Gemstone Spinel
Date: 1977. From the Gem and Mineral collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Credit: Dane A. Penland (Smithsonian Institution). Public. Resource.Org is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Treasure Hunt

We all have played treasure hunts in our childhood and there are no two views about the fact that we all loved those exciting, adventurous, and rewarding games.

How about playing a treasure hunt to find real gems? 

Put simply, gem hunting is a treasure hunt, but one that is performed at an advanced level, utilizing modern tools and professional techniques.

Most everyone loves to look at these shiny, sparkling stones. But, unfortunately, hunting for minerals isn’t as easy a sport as our childhood treasure hunts were.  

As someone rightly said, it is like playing the geological lottery. If luck is on your side, you may find some precious gems without hunting for days, but if luck isn’t kind to you, you may hunt for days on end. Even if you use the most advanced tools and machinery, you might only end up getting your hands on a few semi-precious gemstones.

So before we get into discussing the details of gem hunting, let us take a look at some basic information regarding these beautiful and colorful minerals of nature.

How Do We Define a Gemstone?

Rose Quartz Healing Gemstone
Rose Quartz Healing Gemstone

Even though human beings have been hunting and pursuing gems for thousands of years, we still lack a proper definition of them.

Coming up with an appropriate label has been challenging, not only for laymen but also for lexicographers (linguistic experts who compile the dictionaries).

For the sake of understanding, a gemstone, alternatively known as a gem, mineral, or jewel, can be defined as a piece of rock or any other organic material that is generally formed inside the earth. After cutting and polishing, they are used for adornment, architectural, or decorative purposes, due to their beauty and preciousness.

Do you know that the study of gems, called Gemology, was classified as a science during the 1930s?

What Decides the Value of a Gemstone?

The emerald gemstone jewelry cut with dark stone background.
Emerald gemstone cut. Photo: iStock

Multiple factors contribute to determining the value of a particular gemstone. These include:

    • It’s a natural occurrence inside the earth. This is why rare gemstones are expensive.
    • Beauty
    • The four C’s i.e. color, carat, cut, and clarity
    • Supply and demand 

While the above-mentioned factors determine the value of these entities, there is no universal measurement or classification system in place for any gemstone except the diamond.

Due to the absence of a uniform classification system, some gems are not considered as precious as diamonds even though they are much rarer than diamonds. Following are some of the highly rare gems:

Red Beryl gem stone
Red beryl. Photo: Rob Lavinsky. Photo: Wikipedia, CC

    • Red beryl
    • Alexandrite
    • Musgravite
    • Painite
    • Poudretteite
    • Jeremejevite
    • Benitoite
    • Grandidierite
    • Tanzanite

Synthetic Gemstones – A Cheaper Alternative

Thanks to the advancements in technology, we now have synthetic gemstones. These are made in a laboratory but mostly contain the same chemical properties as the natural ones. In fact, if you put one synthetic and one natural gemstone next to each other, they will be hard to tell apart.

They make a good option for those who are only concerned about appearance and not the veracity of the mineral. Synthetic gems sometimes may have fewer blemishes than real ones. Not to mention they are much cheaper.

Top Places to Go For Gem Hunting in the US

Azurite specimen from the Morenci mine, Morenci, Arizona, USA.

Azurite specimen from the Morenci mine, Morenci, Arizona, USA. Photo: Wikipedia CC

Gem hunting is an exciting family activity. This is why many people include a gem-hunting adventure in their vacation plans. If you want to experience the adrenaline rush by finding precious gems at places where you least expect them, then take a look at the following list to learn about the places considered amazing for gem hunting:

    • Crater of Diamonds State Park, Arkansas
    • Emerald Hollow Mine, North Carolina
    • Cherokee Ruby Mine, North Carolina
    • Gem Mountain, North Carolina
    • Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine, Montana
    • Diamond Hill Mine, South Carolina
    • Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine, Nevada
    • Woodward Ranch, Texas
    • California State Gem Mine, California

Whenever you plan to go gem hunting, make sure to check the legalities before you start the hunt at a location, apart from those that are specifically meant for the purpose and are open to the public. This is important to ensure that you do not end up being arrested for violating laws or trespassing. Unless you have permission, you can hunt for gems on any private or public property.

Join a Club!

There are many mineral clubs you can join. In New York State alone, there are 15 locations throughout the state.

Final Note

Gem hunting is an exciting, adventurous, and rewarding activity that can be taken upon both as a career and for recreational purposes. So, let loose your inner explorer and experience the exhilaration this amazing activity has in store for you.